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News articles on environmental economics
Mongabay.com news articles on environmental economics in blog format. Updated regularly.
Paying for nature: putting a price on 'ecosystem services'
(07/12/2010) Ever since humans entered the stage, nature has been providing us with a wide-variety of essential and 'free' services: food production, pollination, soil health, water filtration, and carbon sequestration to name a few. Experts have come to call these 'ecosystem services'. Such services, although vital for an inhabitable planet, have largely gone undervalued in the industrial age, at least officially. Yet as environmental crises pile one on another across the world, a growing number of scientists, economists, environmentalists, and policy-makers are beginning to consider putting a monetary value on 'ecosystem services'.
Goodbye to the Gulf: oil disaster hits region's 'primary production'
(07/08/2010) According to a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the many ecosystem services provided by the Gulf of Mexico will be severely impacted by BP's giant oil spill. 'Ecosystem services' are the name given by scientists and experts to free benefits provided by intact ecosystems, for example pollination or clean water. In the Gulf of Mexico, such environmental benefits maintain marine food production, storm buffers, tourism, and carbon sequestration, but one of the most important of marine ecosystem services is known as 'primary production'.
U.S. farms and forests report draws ire in Brazil; cutting down the Amazon does not mean lower food prices
(06/24/2010) Not surprisingly, a US report released last week which argued that saving forests abroad will help US agricultural producers by reducing international competition has raised hackles in tropical forest counties. The report, commissioned by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a US group pushing for including tropical forest conservation in US climate policy, and the National Farmers Union, a lobbying firm, has threatened to erode support for stopping deforestation in places like Brazil. However, two rebuttals have been issued, one from international environmental organizations and the other from Brazilian NGOs, that counter findings in the US report and urge unity in stopping deforestation, not for the economic betterment of US producers, but for everyone.
Local voices: frustration growing over Senate plan on Tongass logging
(06/17/2010) Recently local Alaskan communities were leaked a new draft of a plan to log 80,000 acres of the Tongass forest making its way through the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. According to locals who wrote to mongabay.com, the draft reinforced their belief that the selection of which forests to get the axe has nothing to do with community or environmental concerns.
Photos: Tongass logging proposal 'fatally flawed' according to Alaskan biologist
(06/15/2010) A state biologist has labeled a logging proposal to hand over 80,000 acres of the Tongass temperate rainforest to Sealaska, a company with a poor environmental record, 'fatally flawed'. In a letter obtained by mongabay.com, Jack Gustafson, who worked for over 17 years as a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, argues that the bill will be destructive both to the environment and local economy.
Inga alley cropping: a sustainable alternative to slash and burn agriculture
(06/14/2010) It has been estimated that as many as 300 million farmers in tropical countries may take part in slash and burn agriculture. A practice that is environmentally destructive and ultimately unstable. However, research funded by the EEC and carried out in Costa Rica in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Mike Hands offers hope that it is possible to farm more successfully and sustainably in these tropical regions.
Indonesia identifies possible sites for forest conservation pilot project
(06/06/2010) The government of Indonesia has named four forests which could serve as pilot projects for its conservation deal with Norway, according to the Jakarta Post. The deal, including a billion US dollar donation from Norway, is meant to help Indonesia stem rampant deforestation throughout the nation, which has pushed Indonesia to become the world's third highest greenhouse gas emitter.
REDD threatens rights of 350 million local people
(06/03/2010) Last week the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program received a jump start with a four billion US dollar pledge from a number of industrialized nations. Under REDD tropical forest nation will be paid to keep forests standing, however the program—as it currently stands—has provoked concern over the rights of the some 350 million people living in or adjacent to forests. The Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change, a coalition of some 100 organizations from 38 countries, has released a report outlining an alternative vision of REDD that would uphold the rights of local and indigenous people while protecting forests.
Corruption could undermine REDD
(06/03/2010) With four billion US dollars pledged last week to kick-start the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), a new report by Global Witness warns that the funds could do little to stem deforestation if governance and accountability are not improved and corruption tackled. The REDD program provides funds to tropical nations to keep forests standing as a means to sequester carbon.
A total ban on primary forest logging needed to save the world, an interview with activist Glen Barry
(06/02/2010) Radical, controversial, ahead-of-his-time, brilliant, or extremist: call Dr. Glen Barry, the head of Ecological Internet, what you will, but there is no question that his environmental advocacy group has achieved major successes in the past years, even if many of these are below the radar of big conservation groups and mainstream media. "We tend to be a little different than many organizations in that we do take a deep ecology, or biocentric approach," Barry says of the organization he heads. "[Ecological Internet] is very, very concerned about the state of the planet. It is my analysis that we have passed the carrying capacity of the Earth, that in several matters we have crossed different ecosystem tipping points or are near doing so. And we really act with more urgency, and more ecological science, than I think the average campaign organization."
Indonesia announces moratorium on granting new forest concessions
(05/28/2010) With one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, the world's third largest greenhouse gas emissions due mostly to forest loss, and with a rich biodiversity that is fighting to survive amid large-scale habitat loss, Indonesia today announced a deal that may be the beginning of stopping forest loss in the Southeast Asian country. Indonesia announced a two year moratorium on granting new concessions of rainforest and peat forest for clearing in Oslo, Norway, however concessions already granted to companies will not be stopped. The announcement came as Indonesia received 1 billion US dollars from Norway to help the country stop deforestation.
Long-distance seed dispersal and hunting, an interview with Kimberly Holbrook
(05/24/2010) Scientists are just beginning to uncover the complex relationship between healthy biodiverse tropical forests and seed dispersers—species that spread seeds from a parent tree to other parts of the forest including birds, rodents, primates, and even elephants. By its very nature this relationship consists of an incredibly high number of variables: how abundant are seed dispersers, which animals spread seeds the furthest, what species spread which seeds, how are human impacts like hunting and deforestation impacting successful dispersal, as well as many others. Dr. Kimberly Holbrook has begun to answer some of these questions.
Big compromise reached on Canada's Boreal by environmental groups and forestry industry
(05/19/2010) In what is being heralded as the 'world's largest conservation agreement' 20 Canadian forestry companies and nine environmental organizations have announced an agreement covering 72 million hectares of the Canadian boreal forest (an area bigger than France). Reaching a major compromise, the agreement essentially ends a long battle between several environmental groups and the companies signing on, all members of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC).
Norway to provide Indonesia with $1 billion to protect rainforests
(05/19/2010) Norway will provide up to $1 billion to Indonesia to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation, reports The Jakarta Post.
Collapsing biodiversity is a 'wake-up call for humanity'
(05/10/2010) A joint report released today by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) finds that our natural support systems are on the verge of collapsing unless radical changes are made to preserve the world's biodiversity. Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, called the bleak report "a wake-up call for humanity."
Who's to blame for the oil spill?
(05/04/2010) America, we deserve the oil spill now threatening the beautiful coast of Louisiana. This disaster is not natural, like the earthquake that devastated Haiti or tsunami that swept Southeast Asia in 2006; this disaster is man-made, American-made in fact, pure and simple. So, while in the upcoming weeks and months—if things go poorly—we may decry the oil-drenched wildlife, the economic loss for the region, the spoiled beeches, the wrecked ecosystems, the massive disaster that could take decades if not longer to recover from, we, as Americans, cannot think smugly that we are somehow innocent of what has happened. You play with fire: you will get burned. You drill for oil 1,500 meters below the surface of the ocean, you open up oil holes across the surface of your supposedly-beloved landscape, sooner or later there will be a spill, and sometimes that spill will be catastrophic.
Logging in Tongass rainforest would imperil rare species
(05/03/2010) According to a letter from three past employees of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation to Sean Parnell, the Governor of Alaska, a proposal to bill logging the Tongass temperate rainforest would threaten two endangered species. In fact, the letter warns that if the bill passes and the company in question, Sealaska, proceeds with logging it is likely the Alexander Archipelago wolf and the Queen Charlotte goshawk would be pushed under the protection of the US Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Can markets protect nature?
(05/03/2010) Over the past 30 years billions of dollars has been committed to global conservation efforts, yet forests continue to fall, largely a consequence of economic drivers, including surging global demand for food and fuel. With consumption expected to far outstrip population growth due to rising affluence in developing countries, there would seem to be little hope of slowing tropical forest loss. But some observers see new reason for optimism—chiefly a new push to make forests more valuable as living entities than chopped down for the production of timber, animal feed, biofuels, and meat. While are innumerable reasons for protecting forests—including aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, and moral—most land use decisions boil down to economics. Therefore creating economic incentives to maintaining forests is key to saving them. Leading the effort to develop markets ecosystem services is Forest Trends, a Washington D.C.-based NGO that also organizes the Katoomba group, a forum that brings together a wide variety of forest stakeholders, including the private sector, local communities, indigenous people, policymakers, international development institutions, funders, conservationists, and activists.
Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico heading towards full-scale environmental disaster
(04/29/2010) With the news that the amount of oil leaking from below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico could be as much as five times the original estimate put forward by British oil-giant BP, the situation moved from worrisome to desperate.
Locals plead for Tongass rainforest to be spared from Native-owned logging corporation
(04/29/2010) The Tongass temperate rainforest in Alaska is a record-holder: while the oldest and largest National Forest in the United States (spanning nearly 17 million acres), it is even more notably the world's largest temperate rainforest. Yet since the 1960s this unique ecosystem has suffered large-scale clearcutting through US government grants to logging corporations. While the clearcutting has slowed to a trickle since its heyday, a new bill put forward by Senator Lisa Murkowski (Rep.) gives 85,000 acres to Native-owned corporation Sealaska, raising hackles among environmentalists and locals who are dependent on the forests for resources and tourism.
Despite promises, world governments failing to save biodiversity
(04/29/2010) In 2002 world leaders committed to reducing the global rate of biodiversity loss within eight years time: 2010. While many have noted that world governments have largely failed on their promises, a new study in Science looks at the situation empirically and agrees that their has been no significant reduction in biodiversity loss and, at the same time, pressures on the world's species have risen, not fallen.
Video: Madagascar could become "Haiti-like"
(04/28/2010) Niall O'Connor from the World Wildlife Fund warns in a Carte Blanche production that if the ecological destruction of Madagascar continues, the poor island country could become "Haiti-like", where he says, "most of the biodiversity, most of the forests are gone".
Farming snails to save the world's rarest gorillas
(04/28/2010) In a place of poverty and hunger, how do you save a species on the edge of extinction? A difficult question that conservationists have long-been working to tackle, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has come up with a new plan to protect the world's most endangered gorilla, the Cross River gorilla, from poachers by providing locals with an alternate and better income from farming snails.
World failing on every environmental issue: an op-ed for Earth Day
(04/22/2010) The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age. Today we speak of preserving world biodiversity, of saving the 'lungs of the planet', of mitigating global climate change. No longer are humans over-reaching in just one region, but we are overreaching the whole planet, stretching ecological systems to a breaking point. While we are aware of the issues that threaten the well-being of life on this planet, including our own, how are we progressing on solutions?
Video: black list uncovers least transparent companies
(04/14/2010) Corporate Responsibility Magazine has released its first annual list of the 30 least transparent companies, dubbed the 'black list'. Looking at corporations traded on the US stock market in the Russell 1,000—the top 1,000 stocks in the Russell 3,000 list—the magazine pinpointed the bottom 30, exposing those companies that choose to hide in the dark.
Cochabamba Climate Conference: the Coca Contradiction
(04/11/2010) In the high stakes game of geopolitics, the small and economically disadvantaged Andean nation of Bolivia has little clout. Now, however, the country’s indigenous president Evo Morales wants to establish more of a significant voice on the world stage. Recently, he has turned himself into something of a spokesperson on the issue of climate change. Decrying the failure of world leaders to come to a satisfactory agreement on global warming, he is intent on shaming the Global North into addressing climate change. Whatever Bolivia lacks in terms of political and economic muscle, Morales would like to offset through skilled use of moral persuasion.
Scientists: 60 million USD needed to gauge the global threat to biodiversity
(04/08/2010) One of the greatest barriers to saving the world's biodiversity is simply a lack of knowledge: to date less than 50,000 species have been surveyed by the IUCN Red List regarding their threat level, while the vast majority of the world's species are left unanalyzed especially fungi, plants, fish, reptiles, and insects and other invertebrates. To address this problem, some of the world's top biologists have proposed a 60-million US dollar program they dub the 'barometer of biodiversity' to gather a representative sample of all taxons.
Unilever backtracks: may purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas
(04/07/2010) The world's biggest buyer of palm oil, Unilever, says it will again purchase palm oil from PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesian company Sinar Mas, if allegations about deforestation and peatland destruction prove untrue, or if Sinar Mas shows it is addressing the issue. Last December, the food and cosmetic giant, Unilever, suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas after an independent audit—spurred by a 2008 Greenpeace report—showed that the Indonesian company was involved in the illegal destruction of rainforests and peatlands. Yet the company now seems to be signaling that the contract is back on the table even as it touts its sustainability efforts to the public.
History repeats itself: the path to extinction is still paved with greed and waste
(04/05/2010) As a child I read about the near-extinction of the American bison. Once the dominant species on America's Great Plains, I remember books illustrating how train-travelers would set their guns on open windows and shoot down bison by the hundreds as the locomotive sped through what was left of the wild west. The American bison plunged from an estimated 30 million to a few hundred at the opening of the 20th century. When I read about the bison's demise I remember thinking, with the characteristic superiority of a child, how such a thing could never happen today, that society has, in a word, 'progressed'. Grown-up now, the world has made me wiser: last month the international organization CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) struck down a ban on the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. The story of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is a long and mostly irrational one—that is if one looks at the Atlantic bluefin from a scientific, ecologic, moral, or common-sense perspective.
Wildlife Management Areas in Africa require changes to become sustainable
(03/29/2010) Wildlife Management Areas in Africa were created to serve a dual purpose. By granting local communities usage rights over wildlife in designated areas, African countries hoped both to allow communities to benefit from their wildlife while taking an active part in conservation. A new paper in published in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science outlines the current problems facing WMAs, using Tanzania as an example, and recommends possible solutions.
Analysis shows Borneo can say 'no' to coal power
(03/17/2010) Plans for a coal power plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo have run into stiff opposition. Environmentalists say the coal plant could damage extensive coral reef systems, pollute water supplies, open rainforests to mining, and contribute to global climate change, undercutting Sabah's image as a 'green' destination. The federal government contends that the coal plant is necessary to fix Sabah's energy problems. However, a recent energy audit by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California Berkeley shows that pollution-intensive coal doesn't have to be in Sabah's future.
Sharks swim safe around the Maldives
(03/11/2010) Sharks that dwell in the Maldives can breathe a sigh of relief: the island nation has declared 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean a safe-haven for sharks, banning shark fishing as well as any trade in shark fins.
Consumption habits cause rich countries to outsource emissions
(03/08/2010) Over a third of the greenhouse gas emissions related to the consumption of goods in wealthy nations actually occur in developing countries, according to a new analysis by researchers with the Carnegie Institution. Annually, each person if the United States outsources 2.5 tons of carbon due to consumption habits, most frequently in China. In Europe the figure of 'outsourced' emissions rises to 4 tons per person.
Profit of biggest companies would be cut by a third if forced to pay for environmental damage from operations
(02/19/2010) Profits of the world's 3,000 largest companies would be cut by $2.2 trillion per year if they were forced to pay for environmental damage from their operations, according to an upcoming U.N. report detailed by The Guardian. The study, conducted by Trucost, a consultancy, and scheduled to be released this summer, estimates that pollution and degradation of natural resources by the world's 3,000 largest companies amount to six to seven percent of total revenue, or roughly one-third of profits.
Consumers fail at identifying green companies
(02/17/2010) An article today in New Scientist shows that American consumers have a difficult time correctly identifying green companies, often confusing 'greenwashing' for true green credentials or not bestowing enough credit where credit is truly due. By combining data from Earthsense, which polled 30,000 Americans about on their views of 'green' companies, and Trucost which assesses companies global environmental impact, New Scientist was able to discover just how confused American consumers are when it comes to identifying 'green'.
Expedition to photograph world's rarest cetacean threatened by lack of funding
(02/11/2010) Little known beyond the waters of the Gulf of California, the world's smallest cetacean (a group including whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is hanging on by a thread. The vaquita—which in Spanish means 'little cow'—has recently gained the dubious distinction of not only being the world's smallest cetacean, but the also the world's rarest. In 2006 it was announced that the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was likely extinct, and conservationists fear the Critically Endangered 'little cow' is next. An expedition for this year is set to identify vaquita individuals, but even this is threatened by lack of funding.
Could special bonds fund the green revolution and stabilize the climate?
(02/02/2010) There is no question that governments around the world are moving slowly and sluggishly to combat climate change, especially when placed against the measures recommended by climate scientists. Only a handful of nations have actually cut overall greenhouse gas emissions, and the past couple decades have seen emissions rise rapidly worldwide as nations like India and China industrialize while Brazil and Indonesia continue massive deforestation. Global temperatures are rising in concert (though with natural fluctuations): the past decade is the warmest on record. After the failure of Copenhagen this past December to produce an ambitious and binding treaty, many are wondering if the world will ever address the threat of climate change or if future generations are set to live in a world far different—and more volatile—than the one we currently enjoy.
China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy
(02/01/2010) This year China has become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world's most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world's most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.
Will it be possible to feed nine billion people sustainably?
(01/28/2010) Sometime around 2050 researchers estimate that the global population will level-out at nine billion people, adding over two billion more people to the planet. Since, one billion of the world's population (more than one in seven) are currently going hungry—the largest number in all of history—scientists are struggling with how, not only to feed those who are hungry today, but also the additional two billion that will soon grace our planet. In a new paper in Science researchers make recommendations on how the world may one day feed nine billion people—sustainably.
New report: world must change model of economic growth to avert environmental disaster
(01/25/2010) For decades industrialized nations have measured their success by the size of their annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product), i.e. economic growth. The current economic model calls for unending growth—as well as ever-rising consumerism—just to remain stable. However, a new report by the New Economics Foundation (nef) states that if countries continue down a path of unending growth, the world will be unable to tackle climate change and other environmental issues.
Photos: park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil
(01/19/2010) In the midst of a seesaw political battle to save Yasuni National Park from oil developers, scientists have announced that this park in Ecuador houses more species than anywhere else in South America—and maybe the world. "Yasuní is at the center of a small zone where South America's amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity," Dr. Clinton Jenkins of the University of Maryland said in a press release. "We dubbed this area the 'quadruple richness center.'"
Saving biodiversity 'on the same scale' as climate change: German Chancellor
(01/11/2010) In a kick-off event for the UN's Year of Biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, compared the importance of saving biodiversity to stopping climate change.
Guyana to increase oversight of gold mining under deal to save forests with Norway
(12/21/2009) As apart of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.
Canada at Copenhagen: "delay, obstruction, and total inaction"
(12/21/2009) Canada was the biggest obstructer at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, according to the Climate Action Network (CAN) an organization made-up of 450 NGOs. On Friday CAN awarded Canada the 'Colossal Fossil Award' for doing the most to obstruct an ambitious climate change agreement and for doing the least to mitigate climate change.
Bolivia's President blames capitalism for global warming
(12/18/2009) The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, clearly frustrated with the progression of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today blamed capitalism for global warming.
Uninhabited tropical island paradise seeks REDD funding to save it from loggers
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
US moves talks forward in Copenhagen with pledge of 100 billion fund, now it's China's turn
(12/17/2009) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought some much need good news to Copenhagen with her. In an announcement this morning, Clinton announced that the United States was ready to join other industrialized nations in mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid for developing and vulnerable nations by 2020 at the Climate Change conference.
Is the US sinking climate change talks at Copenhagen?
(12/16/2009) While it's difficult to know what's truly going on inside the Bella Center at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a pattern seems to be emerging of the United States being unwilling to compromise on, well, anything.
Pope Benedict: environmental crisis requires review of world's economic model
(12/15/2009) Pope Benedict XVI has released a message linking world peace with preserving the environment for the World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1st 2010. In it Benedict calls for a "long-term review" of the world's current economic model, including "[moving] beyond a purely consumerist mentality" and encouraging a more "sober lifestyle".
New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring
(12/11/2009) A new poll, taken in the midst of the scandal involving hacked emails from climate change scientists, shows that a significant majority (70 percent) of Americans agree with climatologists that the earth is warming.
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